Keyless entry

It seems that everything nowadays is going ‘smart’ with key and lock systems being no exception. Keyless entry and remote keyless systems are increasingly being adopted within the UK by automobile manufacturers, homes, schools and more - year after year.

The sheer convenience of entering your home, car, or office without having to fumble and fidget through your pockets for the matching key just makes life easier. With so many varieties of keyless entry, smart keys, and smart locks, it’s useful to know the differences between these technologies, how they work, and their advantages and disadvantages.

What is keyless entry?

As the name implies, keyless entry is simply any lock and key system that does not require a physical key in order to access whatever may be behind the lock. This does not necessarily imply that no key is required, but rather that the key itself does not need to be physically inserted into the lock’s keyhole in order to provide access.

Many different types of keyless entry and smart keys exist in the UK. They fall into one of two categories: electronic or magnetic. The former requires a power source whilst the latter may be operated without one. Amongst the most popular varieties of keyless entry systems include:

  • alphanumeric/numeric keypad entry
  • smartcard entry systems
  • automobile immobilisers (aka transponder keys)
  • radio frequency (RF) key systems
  • biometric scanning (e.g. fingerprints)
  • smartphone app keys

Brief history of keyless entry

Traditional lock and key systems date to at least as far back as Ancient Egypt and Babylon and are still by far the most common means of securing homes, automobiles, safes, and buildings. It was not until the 1980s that remote keyless systems first began to appear on several Ford automobile models. These rudimentary lock and key systems used a keypad located above the door handle of the driver’s door, which could unlock the doors and boot if the correct sequence was entered.

From these early variants to the early 2010s, keyless entry technology for cars had improved, yet it had not achieved widespread application by manufacturers in earnest. From 2013 to today, we have seen innovations in remote access technology which now permit dealerships, manufacturers, and locksmiths to programme key fobs for remote entry.

Keyless entry vs. remote keyless systems

The terms keyless entry and remote keyless systems are often used interchangeably, and for most purposes, they are essentially the same thing. Remote keyless systems differ in that they make use of remote keys which require no physical contact with the lock. Examples include RF key fobs and Bluetooth smart keys. In other words, they’re hands-free.

Home smart keys and smart locks

Residential smart key and smart lock systems evolved from two major sources: the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) and demands for innovative technology from the hotel industry. In the late 1990s, hotels were looking for more secure ways of preventing unwanted entry into their rooms, and electronic deadbolts and lock systems, along with smartcard entry, gradually became the norm. This continues today within the UK and in most developed nations.

It was not until the early 2010s that constant innovation in smart home technology and lower costs of smart lock manufacturing brought this technology to residential and commercial users. Furthermore, residential smart locks often forego smartcards for alphanumeric PIN codes, RFID entry, or even smartphone apps integrated with home security systems.

Automotive keyless entry

The very first horseless carriages didn’t need locks at all for the simple reason that because these early inventions had such complex ignition processes, only a skilled driver could undertake all of the required steps to start the vehicle. As combustion engine technology evolved, however, would-be burglars became increasingly attracted and thus the first car lock and key systems by Bosch kept thieves at bay.

The first proximity keys to see widespread use in automobile manufacturing were brought about by GM on its 2004 Chevrolet Malibu. The technology would only improve over the years, culminating in 2018’s Tesla Model 3. Early adopters of these ultra-modern automobiles have full accessibility and control over their vehicle with a user-friendly smartphone app, and should the battery life run low, a smartcard-style entry system is also available.

Automotive keyless entry security concerns

Unfortunately, keyless entry car theft is a major cause for concern in the UK. With keyless car theft on the rise, it’s worth investigating how and why thieves are often getting away with it in the first place.

Two main sources of keyless car theft include:

  • Remote entry: thieves with excellent IT skills are able to intercept wireless signals from your vehicle and narrow down the frequency with which the car can be hacked. Although billions of permutations of unique ‘passwords’ exist, a clever and patient thief can reduce the possibilities down to a few hundred thousand, and use software to determine the exact key necessary to access the vehicle in as little as half an hour.
  • Relay theft: the most common means of accessing a keyless entry car in the UK can be done in as little as 30 seconds. Thieves can purchase equipment for less than £100 which enables them to relay the signal of your wireless key from your home to a nearby accomplice, who can then use the signal emitted from your key to access the vehicle.

Pros and cons of remote keyless systems

PROS

  • Security: keyless entry systems do not need to be replaced every time an employee leaves the office, a previous tenant moves out of a flat, or whenever there is reason to believe that unwanted visitors have a physical copy of a key, since these locks can be simply reprogrammed with new passwords or codes to permit or deny entry at will.
  • Convenience: there’s no need to worry about where you left your keys, since keyless entry systems are exactly that, keyless. If even a few seconds of the day are eliminated accessing your home, auto, or office with keyless entry, that time adds up over a year.
  • Features: keyless entry systems can often be programmed to permit or deny entry depending on time of day, such as to unlock doors of a business during opening hours and requiring keys after closing.
  • Connectivity: home keyless entry is often connected to a smart home, which means, for example, that all features can be easily integrated and accessed via a smartphone.
  • Customisation: smart locks come in many varieties depending on your exact needs, such as connectivity with CCTV cameras, spotlights, or even notifying the owner of how many times the door was accessed and at what time.

CONS

  • Security: although listed as a pro above, remote keyless systems open up the risk of vehicular theft or unwanted home or office access if precautions are not taken to reduce the risk of hacking or relay theft.
  • Dependence: electronic keyless systems require a power source at all times. Although many have battery assistance should power ever go out, these systems may also be dependent on wireless connectivity, whereas traditional lock and key systems are not dependent on anything but time-tested mechanical locksmithing technology.
  • Complexity: most locksmiths in the UK are accustomed to working with traditional lock and key systems, but many may lack the IT expertise to install, reprogram, or diagnose these technologically-complex systems. Ask your locksmith if they have worked with keyless entry systems before.

How locksmiths can help with keyless entry

Professional locksmiths in the UK are adopting keyless entry systems as they are only increasing in popularity and adoption. One problem that many home and auto owners face, however, is that manufacturer or dealership reprogramming of keyless entry systems can be complex and costly.

Professional locksmiths can provide these services, often to a higher standard and at a far lower cost, provided that they are accustomed to working with keyless entry systems.

What to consider when contacting a locksmith

When compared to traditional lock and key systems, keyless entry has many advantages as seen above. One specific advantage, in theory, is their sturdy durability since no abrasion occurs, making them last for years without needing repairs. In reality, smart locks can encounter a different problem altogether: bugs or glitches. Software-related problems require computer knowledge which more and more locksmiths are providing across the UK.

Before contacting a locksmith, however, enquire whether they are accustomed to working with remote keyless systems or smart locks. Familiarity with keyless entry technology is essential to ensuring that your home, auto, and business is kept secure since these repairs are vastly different in nature to conventional physical lock and key systems.

Rated Locksmiths

Finding a good locksmith that operates within your postcode shouldn’t be difficult or time-consuming, particularly in case of an emergency. That’s why Rated Locksmiths helps you quickly find quality locksmiths in your area. Contact us if you’d like to enquire about our online locksmith marketplace, and what we can offer you for your home, automotive, or business needs.

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